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RFC Aircraft Watches - Mark V Letter Codes "Click" to Login or Register 
posted
Greetings All,

Well, my Mark IVa arrived today and it is in much better condition than I imagined it would be. As noted in my first post, it is tagged No. 4752AG on the face, and after popping open the back I discovered it is an Octava with a movement number of 70816 on the frame. Also, inside the back cover the following was engraved: "442.9". And on the face someone has added "N2", (or possibly "NZ"), to the left of the aviation "A" mark, and "8.8" to the right of it.

After a very light cleaning I set the time and gave it a couple of slow winds and it has been running ever since and keeping good time. Here are more pictures.

Cheers!

Lou

 
Posts: 2 | Location: Minnesota in the USA | Registered: May 10, 2010
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posted
This 8 day pocket watch is marked W /|\ D for the War Dept. on the back of the snap back case. Only the number 207 remains of whatever was once on the dial. There is no name on the movement.

Ordinarily, I would expect an RFC MK IV, MK V or similar marking on such an 8 day timepiece, but nothing of this sort can be seen. Thus it’s up for evaluation and speculation at this time.

Best regards,
Greg

 
Posts: 1864 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
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posted
An image of the movement:

 
Posts: 1864 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
HiGreg, could you please add a photo of the W/|\D marking on the back of the case?

My first thought is that I agree with you in that it looks like a Mark-IVA but I am also surprised with the lack of the rest of the usual markings you see on the dials of these. Two possibilities I can think of are: 1) it might be a replacement dial from some point in its life in the War Department. I would think replacement dials would not have maker's markings on them since there were so many different companies that made these watches that it would make more sense for WD repair shops to have non-specific replacement dials in their kits to be able to use on any maker's watch. A second thought is that at some point in its life - likely after it found its way into private hands, someone used a solvent to remove the markings so it would be difficult to prove it was legally owned by a private party. I see these watches and sometimes other military timepieces with their markings deliberate defaced.
 
Posts: 858 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
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posted
Jim,

I suppose the markings on the dial could have been intentionaly removed. But then, why not take off the W/|\D mark from the caseback? It's not a heavy stamping and could have been removed easily.

Anyway, here is an image of the marking.

As always, I appreciate your observations.

 
Posts: 1864 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
Another thought is to wonder if it is not a Mark IVA and perhaps was made for some use other than aircraft?
 
Posts: 858 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
posted
I realize this is an old discussion, but as Greg assures me there may still be interest... The following are all non-luminous 30-hr Mk Vs; the first is mine, second was an eBay sale from June 2010, and the remainder were in the inventory of a dealer in England. All are signed on the dust cover and movement. The Doxa appears to offer new info whereas all the others are consistent with trends already reported.

BB 1834 Omega
BB 6673 Omega
BE 497 Doxa
BH 889 Record
CB 744 Zenith


Mike
 
Posts: 24 | Location: Spokane, Washington in the USA | Registered: January 30, 2010
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posted
Mike,

Thank you for adding a few more to the list.

Best regards,
Greg
 
Posts: 1864 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
Thanks, Michael. Additional information on these is always welcome to be added to this thread!
 
Posts: 858 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
posted
Hello all,

I ‘m a new member to the forum but hope to add some contribution to this useful thread. I have one interesting new manufacturer of Mark IVA watches to add and a couple of theories to be tested (see my second thread below), but first the data (taken from complete examples or from parts watches that I have examined personally):

Mark IVA 8 day NL

Carley & Clemence Ltd: No 503-A.B. (Octava movement; no case back)

G. Davenport & Co Ltd No 232/C (unidentified gilded movement; very faded dial; W^D to dial and case back)

Georges Favre Jacot & Cie, Le Locle: 742 W (Billodes movement; white dial; elaborately engraved large W ^D to case back (early design c. 1912?)); No 1368 W (black; no movement - dial only – but possibly had a ‘true’ Octava movement ?)

Grimshaw, Baxter & JJ Elliott Ltd No 515 R (Octava movement; W^D & Sth 827 to case back)

H. Williamson Ltd No 3160 AC (unidentified gilded movement; W^D to nicely chromed case back)

Moise Dreyfuss No 637 A.G. (Octava movement; W^D to case back); No 800 A.G. (Octava movement; W^D & Sth 1472 to case back)

S. Smith and Sons London: 9244F (unidentified gilded movement; W^D to case back). (Greg C’s mystery example above, incidentally, is a Smiths Mk IVA – the original descriptive writing on the dial of my example is in orange, possibly formerly red, badly faded but just readable with the front bezel removed; the AA designator can be discarded as a possibility for Smiths Mark Vs – I don’t think they exist).

W. Ehrhardt London No 403/AF (unidentified gilded movement; W^D to case back)

Mark IVA 8 d LUM (Octava movement)

S Alexander & Son No 853 Z (NL; blank case back); No 1856 Z (LUMINOUS dial; A^S to case back); No 2574 Z (LUMINOUS dial; A^S to case back)

The following Mark Vs all have [A-arrow] to the case back unless indicated

Mark V 30h NL (proprietary movements as indicated)

B.B. 200; 5762; 6143; 6753 Omega movement

B.E. 182; [6, or 8]81; 5242 (R.A.E REPAIR to dial); 10052; 10555 (A^ & Sth 2614); 11944; 12472 (converted to luminous; A^ but no A-crown-M) Doxa movement

B.K. 1014 (A^ & Sth 898 to case back); B.K. 4298 (no case back) Electa movement

C.B. 174; 2410; 3416 (‘G.S.Type’ to dial; A^ & A-crown-M to case back) Zenith movement

Mark V 30h LUM

C.C. 2535 (Moser movement, and one of the loveliest Mark V watches, in my opinion)

Mark V 8 day (Octava movement)

B.G. No 3718 (NL but case and dial only); B.G. No 4773 (LUMINOUS; A^ & A-crown-M to case back)

Invicta case and movement but dial unmarked apart from ’30 HOUR LUMINOUS Mark V’ and ‘G.S.Type’; A^ & A-crown-M to case back

I can post photos of any of these watches that are of interest (once I have worked out how to do it).

Regards,
Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
The notes and theories I referred to earlier:

(1) I don’t think that Georges Favre Jacot has been noted as a manufacturer of Mark IVA watches before. The interesting thing is that Georges Favre Jacot registered Zenith as one of his trade marks in 1912, thereby becoming the only supplier of both Mark IVA and Mark V watches to H M Government that we know of presently. Another peculiarity of the Georges Favre Jacot Mark IVA watches (those with white dials at least) is that they carry a movement that is identical to the U.S.A. Patent 816321 (‘Octava’) movement but marked ‘BILLODES’ (another Georges Favre Jacot trade name) with no mention of the patent number. Along with the wonderfully engraved case backs, these white dialled Georges Favre Jacot Marks IVAs stand out nicely. (I haven’t counted the Davenport watch as representing a new manufacturer/supplier because an example appears in Konrad Knirim’s book whereas a Favre Jacot example does not).

(2) I do not believe that Mark V 8 day watches were supplied as such but were converted from existing Mark IVAs. (All Mark V 8 day watches are marked ‘B.G. No’ to the dial and all have Octava movements). The evidence I have for this is an empty case (marked A/^ to the back) that came from a retired jeweller’s stock with hands and a black dial (suitably marked with B.G. No 3718) inside it. My initial thought, that this was a discard from an old watch, was confounded by the lack of ‘gouging’ round the rims where previous generations would have tried to open the case if it had been in use. I also offered up an Octava movement to the case and the inner rim would have required extra milling in a work shop to make it fit. Since all B.G. marked watches have Octava movements, which are a standard size, this seemed odd unless what I had was a war surplus ‘conversion kit’. Note also that all B.G. serials are followed, unusually for a Mark V watch, by ‘No’, which is a Mark IVA characteristic. Occasionally, Mark IVAs are seen with an apparently genuine A/^ back which presumably came about because the conversion consisted of simply swapping the case back sometime c. 1917 but nobody bothered to replace the dial, case and hands. There are also conversions of Mark IVA watches (such as Steven L’s example above) that have a different design of dial but usually have an A.G. serial painted on them (along with A^ on the dial, unusually). These may have been conversions from Moise Dreyfuss Mark IVAs but the example in ZMW’s book has a long arrow on the case back suggesting a previous life as an Admiralty Mark II watch.

(3) I wonder if it may be possible to form the watches that we have seen into a tentative chronology?
One thing we may know for certain is that the W^D mark was superseded by the A/^ mark (seen on all Mark Vs) in 1917 (documentation in Konrad Knirim’s book p 395), so here goes:
(a) c 1912-1916: Mark IVA NL (but with one genuine strand of LUM)
(b) c 1917: Mark V NL Type I dial (silvered numerals)
(c) c. 1918: Mark V NL Type II dial (white numerals)
(d) 1918-1939: Mark V LUM (either supplied as such or converted from NL)

Information from the Omega and Zenith logs seen in Konrad Knirim’s book imply that the early Omegas with the Type I NL dial were first supplied in July 1917 (assuming, as we must, that the serials begin at 100 or higher and are sequentially applied); the Omegas with the Type II NL dial were probably supplied from c. May 1918 onwards; and Mark V Zeniths were probably not supplied until c. 1918. (Zenith – along with Record and Moser - didn’t seem to supply Type I Mark Vs at all). This chronology could be tested by grouping the serial numbers by type of dial and seeing what groups form (or by asking former contributors to this thread to report anomalies).

Some Mark V LUM watches that I have seen have been converted from Mark V NLs (by plonking luminous dots around the dial and painting out the ‘NON’ part of the ‘NON LUMINOUS’ nomenclature) and many carry the post-WWI ‘A M’ stamp on them indicating continued use through the inter-war years. The ‘G.S. type’ marking also painted on many of these watch dials indicates that they were seen as equivalent to the 6E/50 watches from c. WW2 (and indeed one ebay seller has recently offered a Mark V (NL) Moser C.C. 3701 claimed to have been a relic obtained from a WW2 Lancaster bomber crash site in Germany).

My theory about the place of Mark V LUM watches in the chronology unfortunately shoots down ZMW’s ideas about them being improvised for anti-Zeppelin operations. The only accounts of night fighting I have read (like Cecil Lewis’s ‘Scorpio Rising’ or in Neil Hanson’s ‘The First Blitz’) indicate that bulbs were specially rigged to illuminate the dashboard for night flying or electric torches had to be carried. (That is, if these watches were always located on the dashboard, which I do not think is the case - at least not uniformly – an opinion occasionally voiced by exasperated aircraft restorers confronted with ‘fantasy’ dashboard configurations). If luminous watches were required for use in countering the Zeppelin (and later Gotha) bombing raids on Great Britain from 1915 onwards then the only candidate for me is a Mark IVA Luminous watch, which would make the Alexander & Co Mark IVA the only example seen to date. These all, incidentally, seem to have the A^S case back marking indicating issue to the RNAS 1914-1916, which fits exactly if you are looking for a ‘Zeppelin hunter’s’ watch – the RNAS having employed an elastic interpretation of their defence role as including the protection of the integrity of the mainland’s coastline from all intruders (even justifying the bombing of Zeppelin yards in Continental Europe in furtherance of this role). Those A^S case backs incidentally should be brightly chromed but the chrome has corroded very badly over time for some reason on all examples I have seen.

I do not speak as an authority on any of these points, by the way. I’m just summarising my observations over a period of months, and I would be more than happy, of course, to hear any comments, discussions, counter arguments, etc...!

Regards,
Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
Hello,

If this works, a photograph of my Smiths Mark IVA should appear below to confirm what I said previously about the watch posted on August 15. (My movement serial is 145412).

The photo demonstrates how prone the red-painted information on the dial is to fading or loss. The dial on both examples ought to read: 'Non Luminous/[series No]/S Smith & Sons London/8 days' and (above the sub-seconds dial) 'Mark IVA'. (The nomenclature is just about present on my example but doesn't photograph).



The August 15 watch by the way has incorrect replacement hands; the correct (parallel baton style) hands are shown in the photograph also.

Hope this is of interest.

Regards,

Martin

P.S. This is the exact style of Smiths watch that is featured in the famous catalogue ad (the 'A.A.' watch), which why I think Smiths can be discounted as a possible manufacturer of Mark Vs. (Mark Vs were manufactured/supplied by Swiss firms exclusively, I think?).
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
Hello,

Just for information, I thought I'd post pictures of the Favre-Jacot Mark IVA.

There are hairlines galore to the dial:



The movement (marked Billodes) but highly reminiscent of the U.S.A. Patent 861321 (Octava) movement:



The case back is distinctive. At first I thought it was early but R.A.F. specification no. 68A from 1917 specifies that W^D should be marked to the back of the watch 'in large letters occupying the whole of the flat portion of the back'....(?):



Hope this is of interest.

Regards,

Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
Martin - can you provide movement and case numbers for your BB Omega watches (see my posting of 18 Aug 2009). Thanks, Bruce
 
Posts: 21 | Location: Scotland in the United Kingdom | Registered: March 07, 2008
posted
My catalogue of MkIV watch manufacturers (dials all arabic numerals, Non-Lum unless otherwise stated):

xxx AB: Carley & Clemence Ltd (white, then black dials, A/|\S then A)
xxx AC: H Williamson Ltd (white, then black dials, W/|\D)
xxx AF: W. Ehrhardt, London (W/|\D)
xxx AG: Moise Dreyfuss (white, then black dials, A and W/|\D)
xxx AT: Etienne & Cie (white dial)

xxx/C: G Davenport & Co Ltd (W/|\D)

xxx F: S Smith & Son Ltd (white, roman numerals, W/|\D)
xxx R: Grimshaw, Baxter & J.J. Elliot Ltd (W/|\D)
xxx S: S Smith & Sons (MA) Ltd (also Luminous)
xxx W: George Favre Jacot & Cie, Le Locle (white then black dials, W/|\D)
xxx Z: S Alexander & Son (white NL with A or W/|\D, then black LUM with A/|\S)
 
Posts: 21 | Location: Scotland in the United Kingdom | Registered: March 07, 2008
posted
Bruce,

The data you asked for are as follows (read: B.B. no/movement number/case number):

B.B. 200/4968335/5856825
B.B. 5762/5223247/6075035
B.B. 6143/5011240/6075416
B.B. 6753/5164949/6074583

By the way, I believe (for reasons given in my earlier posting) that A.G. can refer EITHER to original Moise Dreyfuss Mark IVAs (white dials, usually with W^D backs) OR to recased Mark IVAs (black dials, sometimes with 'A-arrow' backs). It is striking to note that, if my theory is correct that Mark IVAs were recased after 1917, then the recased and redialled 8 day Mark Vs are designated B.G. (black dials, always with 'A-arrow' backs) and the recased and redialled Mark IVAs are designated A.G. (black dials, sometimes with 'A-arrow' backs).

In penance, I must also correct my earlier posts: (1) Cecil Lewis's classic book is called 'Sagittarius Rising' - googling 'Scorpio Rising' points you to a very different beast; and (2) there have of course been type I Mark V luminous dials recorded.

I have refined my attempted chronology if anyone is interested. I don't want to flog a dead horse but think it might be profitable to try and discern a time line and see if the series numbers seen to date all fall into a neat sequential pattern (by type of dial). This may answer some other queries eg about when and possibly why luminous dials first appeared.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
Martin,

A question on the subject of chronology... Could the chronology of commissioning be (oldest - newest):

- single letter MkIV's (C, F, R, S etc)
- dual letter MkIV's, A Series: (AB, AC, AF, AG etc)
- dual letter MkV's, B Series: (BB, BC, BD, BE etc)
- dual letter MkV's, C Series: (CB, CC etc)

If the above were true for "commissioning", then this would still allow each of the above four phases of manufacturing to overlap. The 'C Series' may have been commissioned long after WW1, in much lesser numbers and soon halted.
 
Posts: 21 | Location: Scotland in the United Kingdom | Registered: March 07, 2008
posted
Bruce,

Apologies for not responding to your post earlier (a busy week, unfortunately).

I find your scheme not only convincing but also brilliantly simple (always the sign of a good idea). Happily, the scheme also sits very nicely with my 'improved' ideas about a narrative chronology, which I hope to revise, check and write up very soon.

If that chronology holds water, I should hope that it could be refined into a comprehensive scheme that could accommodate (amongst other things) all the existing data on individual series numbers. It might then be possible to place any individual watch within the framework of an all-embracing scheme. (This may also touch base with your work on Omega serials, I think).

Having said that, your point about commissioning is well made, especially when you consider conditions of war, and I am now thinking in terms of progressions within the series you have defined and, also as you say, overlapping developments.

However, with warnings in mind about the dangers of over-schematising comparatively small amounts of data (especially when there is little documentary evidence to back up any theories), I hope to produce something soon that is at least worthy of further discussion.

Regards (and with thanks for the input to date),
Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
Hello All,

Here is the narrative chronology of Mark IVA and Mark V watches that I promised, suggesting a possible sequence of events.

All dates are tentative but there is evidence enough to assume that 1917 was a key year.

By then, the ‘W^D’ marking (which hitherto had appeared on Mark IVA case backs) was cancelled for use and the ‘A-Broad Arrow' marking introduced instead (see RAF Form 1048 ref: 2000/10/17, shown in Konrad Knirim’s ‘British Military Timepieces’ book (2009) p 395).

It seems likely that the first Mark V watches were commissioned in that year also. This is certainly the case for Omega, whose watches are often dated to c. 1916 on the basis, I think, of published tables equating movement serial numbers in the 5xxxxxx range to 1916. This may be accurate so far as the year of manufacture is concerned. However, Omega factory records shown in Konrad Knirim’s book prove that an order for 600 watches, placed by client 1120 (‘Force Aerienne Anglaise’) in July 1917, left the factory in September 1917 with movement serials in the 49xxxxx-50xxxxx range: see p 403. This batch of watches almost certainly represents the first order that was placed with Omega (which in turn was probably the first manufacturer commissioned to supply Mark V watches).

For these reasons, the only fixed date that I now think it sensible to talk about is 1917.

The suggested narrative chronology:

1. At some point prior to 1917, the British Government commissioned for aviation use watches with 8 day movements to meet its Mark IVA standard. Two movements were employed as standard: a gilt-finished movement of common design (but of unknown origin); and a nickel-finished movement marked ‘Octava Watch Co, Switzerland’. The dials of Mark IVA watches carried the full names of their contracted supplier and a serial number, followed by a letter code which allows two distinct sets to be discerned: (A) suppliers whose dials carried a single letter (‘monographic’) letter code; and (B) suppliers whose dials carried a two-letter (‘digraphic’) letter code. (The first letter of the digraphic letter codes observed on Mark IVA watches is fixed to the letter ‘A’). It seems that each supplier was assigned a unique letter code, that each supplier belonged to either one ‘set’ or the other (but not to both), and that each supplier (regardless of the ‘set’ to which it belonged) would employ either the gilt-finished movement or the Octava movement (but not both). The cases of Mark IVA watches were usually marked ‘W^D’ to the external face of the case back but they are sometimes found unmarked (and, if a luminous dial was used, they are marked ‘A^S’).

2. By 1917, the British Government had commissioned watches with 30 hour movements that (seemingly) were required by the new Mark V standard. The watches were ordered direct from Swiss manufacturers for the first time but the only indication of their origin is a digraphic letter code that appears on the dial (with the letter code this time preceding a serial number rather than following it). The first letter of the digraphic letter codes observed on Mark V watches is fixed either to the letter ‘B’ or to the letter ‘C’. The cases of these watches now carried the ‘A-Broad Arrow’ marking stamped to the external face of the case back (the ‘A’ possibly indicating ‘Air’).

Within the Mark V series, three distinct phases may be discerned according to the type of dial:
Phase (A): the first dials (‘Type I’) resemble Mark IVA dials but with the colour scheme reversed (ie with all detailing rendered in a pale, reflective paint against an enamelled black background);
Phase (B): ‘Type II’ dials are introduced, resembling the Type I dial but with the detailing now rendered in a non luminous white against a dull black background;
Phase (C): a new form of ‘Type II’ dial is introduced that is more easily readable than the Phase (B) dial, the hour numerals having a much thicker, more uniform shape.

Watches in Phase (A) were produced by Omega (letter code: B.B.), Invicta (letter code: B.D.), Doxa (letter code: B.E.) and Electa (letter code: B.K.). Watches in Phase (B) were produced by Electa (letter code: B.K.), Record (letter code: B.H.) and (probably) by Invicta (letter code: B.D.). Watches in Phase (C) were obtained from Omega (letter code: B.B.) and Doxa (letter code: B.E.), as well as from various ‘new‘ sources, ie an unidentified manufacturer (letter code: B.L.), Zenith (letter code: C.B.) and Moser (letter code: C.C.). A manufacturer may appear in any two of these categories but not in all three, for some reason.

The sequencing of Phases (A) to (C), and the alphabetic progression of the letter codes within them, broadly support the idea that a letter code was assigned to a manufacturer when they were first commissioned to supply a watch. The logic is disrupted slightly by the fact that Phase (A) includes Electa (letter code: B.K.) but not Record (letter code: B.H. - which, like the B.L., C.B and C.C. letter codes, seems not to have appeared on any Type I dial). The Mark V watches with 8 day movements (letter code: B.G.) cannot be placed according to their dials because they adopted a standard that is seen only on Mark IVA watches. I believe that these Mark V watches (which are anomalous in any case, given that the Mark V standard appears to call for a 30 hour movement) will only be explained when we know more about the Mark IVA watches (and particularly about their history following the introduction of the Mark V).

The dating of Mark V watches:

On the evidence of the Omega factory records already mentioned, the introduction of Mark V watches in Phase (A) almost certainly occurs towards the end of 1917.

There is no evidence on which to assume a date for the Mark V watches in Phase (B), but the ‘transitional’ nature of the dial design (and the observed letter codes) imply that they occurred between Phases (A) and (C).

Mark V watches in Phase (C) with ‘B-digraph’ letter codes probably date to the middle of 1918. This is on the evidence of more Omega factory records cited in Konrad Knirim’s book, recording a batch of watches (with movement serials now in the 51xxxxx-52xxxxx range) which were ordered by client 1120 in May 1918 and which left the factory in August 1918: see p 541 (but note that the picture caption misinterprets the data shown).

Mark V watches in Phase (C) with ‘C-digraph’ letter codes probably date to the late 1918 period. This is on the evidence of a Zenith watch (albeit with a comparatively high series number) that was delivered in October 1918 (see Konrad Knirim’s book p 400).


Implications, etc:

This chronology implies that the appearance of Mark V watches is confined to the final 12 months of the First World War and that their supply probably continued into the post-WWI period. This would make the Mark IVA watch the mainstay of the WWI period and the lower estimate of Mark V production figures (as suggested by Bruce) is more likely to be the correct one. Bruce’s point about commissioning also appears to be borne out and some developments may well have occurred in parallel (especially in relation to the Mark IVA watch after the Mark V was introduced). I also believe that the two strands of Mark IVA watch were supplied in parallel throughout their history (and for a very clear, perhaps obvious, reason).

I don’t claim this chronology to be authoritative at this point and any comments, new information, corrections etc are entirely welcomed. Further detailed analysis of series numbers, for example, would surely test the accuracy of the suggested narrative.

I hope this is of interest.

Regards,

Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
A continuation:

I omitted this bit about Mark IVA watches from the narrative chronology (which concentrates on Mark V watches as it stands).

Possible explanation for the two series of letter codes seen on Mark IVA watches

The dials of Mark IVA watches carried the full names of their contracted supplier and a serial number, followed by a letter code which allows two distinct sets to be discerned: (A) suppliers whose dials carried a single letter (‘monographic’) letter code; and (B) suppliers whose dials carried a two-letter (‘digraphic’) letter code.

The digraphic letter codes may simply have preceded the monographic ones in chronological sequence. However, I have a different idea based on the assumption that the War Office and Admiralty, when faced with the novel requirement to procure watches for aviation use, most likely went first to existing suppliers of war materiel who were already contracted to them.

The significant thing about the Mark IVA watches with digraphic letter codes is that they form a group that is instantly familiar to collectors of British Army watches of the WWI period. The most commonly-collected British Army watches from this period are marked ‘W. Ehrhardt’ and ‘H. Williamson’. The ‘G.S. Mark II’ watch (also identified as a British Army watch of the c. WWI period by Taylerson and others, although it may be later) was supplied not only by Rolex but also by Carley & Clemence and by Moise Dreyfuss. These manufacturers (barring Rolex, of course, who didn’t supply aviation watches to the British Government during WWI) account for all the known examples of Mark IVA watches with digraphic letter codes, except Etienne & Cie (which is completely anomalous and needs to be discussed separately).

The evidence from Mark IVA watches with monographic letter codes is less cogent. However, at least two of the firms are known to have been supplying the Admiralty at this time: Smiths supplied Admiralty Mark II watches and Alexander & Sons supplied chronometers to the Royal Navy (amongst many other manufacturers, it has to be said) as well as the only documented watches that have RNAS issue markings (ie the luminous Mark IVA watches that have ‘A^S’ markings to the case back).

So it is tempting to suggest that any series number with a monographic letter code relates to an Admiralty contract (for issue to the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps) while a series number with a digraphic letter code relates to a War Office contract (for issue to the Army element of the Royal Flying Corps).

This theory is not perfect but it has the attraction of chiming with the documented fact that the Admiralty and the War Office competed for scarce resources during WWI (this rivalry even shaping the design and supply of aircraft) and it is not wildly speculative to suggest that watches also reached the respective services by way of different contracting and supply chains. It also explains the apparent scarcity of surviving watches that could otherwise be attributed to the Naval Wing, which for much of WWI was as strong as, if not stronger than, the Army Element of the Royal Flying Corps.

As ever, please feel free to comment, criticise etc....

Regards,

Martin
 
Posts: 37 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: September 17, 2010
posted
To continue the discussion on how many MkVs were produced I offer two scenarios:

a) c.58,000. In this scenario, each watch maker issues sequential dial numbers starting at 100 then 101, 102, 103 etc until cessation of production. As there are 10 different dial prefixes (BB, BC, BD etc) there would be 10 different watches all starting at dial number 100. If you believe this scenario then we have only found, recovered, etc about 0.5-1.0% of all MkV watches ever made.

b) c.9,000. In this scenario, each watch is delivered to a central store which allocates a sequential number and paints this on the dial. Each watch is therefore unique and trackable by its dial number. No two watches would have the same dial number. If you believe this is correct then we have found, recovered etc about 3-4% of all MkV watches ever made.

My database has 262 MkV watches listed and there are only 6 repetitions of dial numbers. Is this is statistically significant to suggest that scenario B above is the most likely (assuming the 6 repetitions are simple errors).

Repetitions of Dial Numbers
135 - BE, BK, BH
653 - BD, BH
1022 - BD, CB
1389 - BG, CB
6184 - BE, CB

Sequence of Commissioning
9 different dial pre-fixes are listed within the first 23 entries in my database suggesting that (if scenario B is correct) all 9 started being delivered at the same time - or started being issued at the same time. If I sort my database by sequential dial numbers then the appearance of prefix appears random (i.e. under scenario B the watches were selected from a stock of 9 makers at random then sequentially numbered on their dial.).

The only conflict I can find to the above idea is that I have found BB Omega watches appear to have been batched in some way: For example Omega BB dial numbers and case numbers follow a sequential (batched) pattern:

BB188 & BB200 have case numbers 5856813 and 5856825 respectfully. The difference between these numbers is both 12. This suggests that the dial numbers were added at the makers according to their production. Similar batching can be found with BB5762-6143, BB6443-6803, BB7155-7569. This batching would suggest that Scenario A is most likely.

How Many Watches?
(a) 58,000 assumes each manufacturer used sequential numbers starting at 100, and without any breaks.

(b) 9,000 assumes all watches had unique dial numbers in the range 100-c.8,000 (94% of all MkV watches on my database), plus 6% of watches then have dial numbers in the range 9,000 to 30,000.

Conclusion
The answer is not clear. It would be easy to assume that Scenario A is correct. This would be easiest to administer - leave the manufacturers to allocate sequential dial numbers. This would also allow different manufacturers to be commissioned at different times - with all starting at 100.

Was there really 58,000 MkV watches produced though????

 
Posts: 21 | Location: Scotland in the United Kingdom | Registered: March 07, 2008
IHC Member 478
posted
Hallo friends
I have to spend compliments to all of you especially Jim Hester, Oliver Wulf and all other contributors for this excellent exemple of a horological research by a forum community, the best is the summary and database started by Martin Cook and Bruce Lumsden. So many added informations, photos, documents and conclusions to get a technical history a bit lighted although necessary documents have not (yet) surfaced! And hail to Greg Crocket for managing this site!

A quote to my web publications: my provider stopped a server many years ago so the old urls are now wrong and the web does not forget, but you can easily transfer an old url by a new one, like the article of Taylorson:
http://www.knirim.homepage.t-online.de/taylor.htm
http://www.knirim.de/taylor.htm
(And sorry that I can not refer to all citations of my work in the many threads, but most of you know, that I answer every email question!)

. Gruesse/Regards/Salute Konrad Knirim
. http://www.knirim.de
 
Posts: 85 | Location: Duesseldorf Germany | Registered: March 08, 2005
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